Looking down on Big Brother

February 21, 2008 Kyron No Comments

It’s amazing what can be put through on a “reality show”. On the one hand, you have Angela Martin, American Idol contestant whose short stint on that show gave the opportunity to highlight Rett’s Syndrome and get this little known disability some well deserved face time. What’s that expression about no good deed goes unpunished?

So yesterday I run across the story of Big Brother on MSNBC. Big Brother is a “reality show” in which a dozen or so individuals are picked to live in isolation at a house under the constant glare of cameras filming their every move and interaction. These roommates win prizes by avoiding being voted out of the house.

Apparently someone felt that it makes good television to allow someone who supposedly does volunteer work with special needs individuals at an autism foundation to refer to them as “retards”. Well leaving the decision as to what is “good” TV for a minute, we know it got people talking. I’m writing about it, MSNBC is covering it, pretty much everyone seems to be covering it according to a simple google search.

And why not? Autism groups are rightly calling for apologies from CBS whose contention it is that the fact that they showed the outrage of other housemates somehow makes it ok. More interesting to me is that CBS goes so far as to say that while they find the statements to be offensive, they also in the same statement say they are not responsible for views aired on the program.

I’m writing this in the middle of the night and so maybe my brain is a tad bit addled but please explain this to me like I’m no smarter than a 5th grader (who by the way I believe already know the answer to this rhetorical question). How is it that CBS broadcasts this over their airwaves, can make all kinds of bleeps and bloops to cover any number of other offensive words but have no control over the views aired on the program?

I’ll be the first to admit, as the mother of a special needs child with a diagnosis of mental retardation – the whole retard thing just makes my stomach heave. The fact that this individual claims to work with individuals who may have a similar co-existing diagnosis makes it just that much worse. The fact that CBS seems to think that airing one person saying don’t say that makes airing the view somehow balanced and therefore more acceptable says to me that the whole lot of them over there need some people first language lessons.

Disability is Natural is one of my favorite sites for this information. They have a great printout located here. It seems to me the powers that be just aren’t getting it. I’d like us to all help them “get it” just a little bit better. I hope that maybe you’d be willing to help me in this effort. I’d like you to print a copy of the Disability is Natural People First Language Chart and mail it off to Mr. Leslie Moonves President and CEO at CBS Corporation. I’ll be adding a copy of this blog entry to Mr. Moonves for good measure. I don’t claim to have millions of visitors here to my blog. What I’m hoping for is a more viral effect….you know that you tell two friends and they tell two friends kind of effect and maybe CBS under the guidance of Mr. Moonves will be able to be more responsible for what airs as “entertainment” on his network.

If you are willing to do this Mr. Moonves can be reached at:

Leslie Moonves
President and Chief Executive Officer, CBS Corporation
51 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019

Let’s make sure that Mr. Moonves can educate a whole bunch of people on people first language by the time he gets done getting these letters.

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Categories : Autism, News, Television

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